It’s cross over time in urban SoCal.
The local weather conditions and temperatures are such that Fish & Game is stocking both catfish and trout at many of the local urban lakes. This influx of fish is stirring up all kinds of fishing activity. For most of us brownliners that’s about as close to winning the lottery as it gets.
A quick stop at or even a drive-by past many of the local waters will easily confirm this and will attest to the fact that while we may not be a lot of things, we urban anglers are apparently quite literate, at least as far as fishing news is concerned and we apparently follow the stocking schedules the way blue-haired heiresses consult astrological charts — that is, frequently and faithfully.
This past week, for example, Sean and I managed to connect for about an hour and a half between appointments to squeeze in some fly-fishin’. We expected to find a couple of guys soaking bait but instead the lake we choose to hit was packed with a horde of fellow anglers catching everything from Bass to Trout to Catfish to Crappie on just about every kind of rig imaginable.
It was, as is often said in fishing circles, “wide open” and the local angling community responded accordingly and enthusiastically.
We found some decent and promising looking shoreline and I began tossing Sean’s variation of a bead head wooly bugger that I call “Fenner’s Phat Fly”. It’s olive green and black, has a little bit of flash in it (appropriately “ghetto” enough for the urban fly fishing environment) and it has been catching me a whole boatload of fish for the last three weeks. Sure, it is getting a little ratty looking and I’ve had to re-bend and re-sharpen the hook after snagging it in a bush and what not but, I gotta say, I’m lovin’ this fly.
Anyway, it worked it’s magic again and I landed a couple of Bass in short order. While I was playing one Bass, Sean hooked up to a Trout and a bait fisherman a few yards away landed a catfish – all within the space of about five minutes. Like I said, wide open.
Perhaps because of the frequency and relative ease of actually catching fish or maybe due to the density of fisherfolk or possibly even because of the crisp freshness of the air but whatever the reason, there seemed to be an overall congeniality at this lake that went beyond the norm. Don’t get me wrong, SoCal anglers are almost always cordial even if we don’t speak the same native tongue, which is highly likely since, according to linguistics experts, there are something like 224 different languages spoken in SoCal, not counting variations in dialect. This just seemed to go beyond mere courtesy and I ended up in several conversations including one that led to an invite down to the casting pond at Recreation Park in Long Beach from a member of the Long Beach Casting Club.
The LB Casting Club has night sessions and informal casting clinics every Tuesday and Thursday in addition to a whole bunch of other activities throughout the year ranging from rod-building clinics to multi-day excursions. I’ll have to check my calendar and go check it out. We will be sure to post the outcome when we do.
Anyway, as I made my way around the lake, I got pointers on the best fly lines, the best flies, the best fly rods to use on urban lakes and so on and so on which was rather amusing since Sean and I were the only ones actually fly fishing. Still it was all good-natured and sincere and considering that I was consistently bringing in a few decent fish under an amazing sunset, it was a pretty good day.
With darkness settling in and a whole bunch more catfish anglers arriving on the scene, Sean and I decided to pack it in and head off to our next appointment. As long as we kept the duck muck off our shoes, no one at our next meeting would even have to know that we had been happily fly fishing just minutes earlier.
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’
Wouldn’t you know it? As soon as I write a piece on patterns and consistency, I get thrown a curve ball and am forced back to my stand-by position that “nature writes the textbooks but doesn’t necessarily read them”.
Case in point: I recently wrote that much of what we do in fly-fishing is to look for identifiable patterns that we can imitate or exploit.
Well, as soon as that declaration was in print — stuff happened.
Not that I’m complaining. To the contrary, I ended up having a good morning… a really good morning. Sure, it included a breakfast burrito with a little crow in it, but it was still a good morning and besides, I was able to spit out most of the feathers before they caused any permanent damage.
You see, Mondays are generally our “office and errand” day. Normally, I’m up and immediately at the computer or fixing the stuff that needs fixing or out the door with “to-do” list, checkbook, dirty laundry, stack of mail and an enormous cup-of-coffee-to-make-it-all-possible in hand.
But this last Monday, thanks in part to the time change, I awoke with the first rays of the sun peeking over… well, the neighbor’s house — but you know what I mean. Anyway, I awoke to a beautiful, clear and sunny sky.
It was one of those mornings that seem to happen every morning in the movies unless it is a horror film, which I never watch anyway. It was simply too good of a morning to start off in front of the computer, no matter how fresh or tasty the coffee or how urgent the e-mail messages.
So I quickly readied up, kissed my still sleeping wife and headed off to La Mirada Park.
Sure enough, there were numerous early morning walkers, a knot of laughing, joking older gentlemen occupying a couple of shaded benches set back on a short rise, a couple of maintenance workers, but no fisher-folk.
I rigged up a new carp fly that I recently purchased from Mad River Outfitters and began some “research”.
Within five minutes, I was rewarded with a Largemouth Bass followed, in short order, by several more Bass. Sure, they were on the small size, but they beat out the boatload of waiting-to-be-opened spam e-mails from a whole crew of totally honest attorneys in Nigeria representing the multi-million dollar estates of recently and tragically deceased relatives I never knew I had.
I continued a slow, leisurely pace around the lake pulling in small Bass about every five minutes.
About half way around the lake, as I was stripping in the fly with short, fast pulls, my rod doubled over.
That doesn’t happen often enough, so it feels good just putting it in writing. In fact, I’ll write it again: My rod doubled over instead of the normal gentle twitching that indicates a Trout or Panfish or even the short Bass I was catching on the other end of the line.
My first thought was Carp. After all, I did have a carp fly on the end of my tippet and there are numerous large Carp in the lake but… something didn’t add up. There was no line-eating, blazing fast run, no wild thrashing, no splashing, just a hard, steady, consistent pull.
My next thought was turtle. I hate snagging turtles. We used to work at a vet hospital that was licensed to see wildlife and frequently an angler would bring in a turtle that he or she had snagged or hooked. It was always a huge pain to try and remove the hook or untangle the line from a ticked off, biting, peeing and snapping turtle. The soft-shelled turtles were the worse. They have these incredibly long necks, nasty beaks and even nastier dispositions that make handling them difficult at best and dangerous at worst.
So, I groaned and hoped that it wouldn’t be a turtle and I wouldn’t lose my new fly to some hissing, whizzing soft shell.
Still my rod stayed doubled over.
Whatever was at the other end was moving in a slow zig-zag pattern and it was getting tired. Since I only had a 7x tippet I wanted to be very careful. (I know, I know, I should have been using a 4x or so but I really had only intended to play with the carp fly before switching over to something smaller. It just started working so darn well.)
Anyway, I glanced at my watch and decided to time this little tug of war. At eight and half minutes, I finally saw the head of my opponent – a catfish! And a decent size one at that.
At twelve minutes plus change, I was able to land a ten and half inch cat AND get my fly back.
Needless to say, it has been a lot of fun telling some of my other fishin’ buddies that I landed a catfish on a fly. Most of these guys are the powerbait and mackerel strips type of catfish anglers so the looks on their faces have been priceless.
Of course, they instantly remind me that it is not the normal “pattern” for cats to hit flies.
To which I reply, “Good thing fish don’t follow web blogs, eh?”
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.
Southern fish experiencing identity crises
By Celia Rivenbark
Next time Bubba and Billy Bob go fishing, they might discover the fish more or less moseys onto the hook, languishes on the line and then passively lays there in the cooler smoothing its scales instead of flailing.
Scientists have discovered estrogen in the water is making fish, particularly large-mouthed bass in the South, less aggressive. Turns out 70 to 90 percent of the bass in ponds across the Southeast have both male and female sex characteristics.
Which goes a long way toward explaining why some of the time they want to pound beers with the guys at BW3′s and the rest of the time they get giddy about the semi-annual shoe sale at Dillard’s .
This new revelation could result in a recall of that horrid wall plaque with the singing bass on it. Instead of singing “Take Me to the River” perhaps some show tunes would be in order. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The bigger worry here is where all this estrogen is coming from and why is it so much more prevalent in the Southeast? In Alaska’s Yukon River , for instance, fish are completely free of the intersex condition, preferring to wear lumberjack plaid shirts for the boys and something slightly slutty from Forever 21 for the girls. Well, almost.
Scientists say this gender-bending may hamper the ability of fish to reproduce. With so many male fish taking on female characteristics, the fish are in a sort of sexual limbo, sadly disinterested in procreation.
Oh, if only deer, squirrels and Kardashians would acquire this particular affliction. I’m just kidding. I don’t really have anything against squirrels. Or deer.
Scientists also say there is no harm to the consumer in eating intersex fish. It’s not as if you’re eating those 24-eyed fish swimming around the nuke pond on “The Simpsons.” The absolute worst thing that would happen is that, if you’re a boy, well, your “bidness” will fall off. So what?
Having spent my formative years fishing in country ponds and catching more than a few large- and small-mouthed bass myself, I think this is going to make for some depressing trips in the future. The fun is in the fight! If the fish simply yawns in my direction and suggests a light breading of panko crumbs with a modest pinot on the side, there’s no real sport in that.
Of course this is serious business and I’m sure more than a few of you will write to say this is an ecological nightmare and they wish my “bidness” would fall off, too. In the meantime, stop flushing your birth control pills (?!) and give our Southern bass a chance to get their groove back. Are we good?
Autumn 2009 officially began in North America on September 22, 2009 at 5:18 pm EDT.
For much of the country, Autumn or Fall traditionally means a transition into cooler temperatures, changes in the foliage and shorter days.
In SoCal, we get the shorter days all right, but for us, the Fall is notorious for being incredibly hot, dry and windy. The seasonal Santa Ana winds blow in and the temps can easily soar into the triple digits while the humidity plummets in the opposite direction to the single digits.
No one really knows why they are called the Santa Ana Winds, though many explanations are put forth as fact. My favorite one is that the name harkens from the Spanish colonial days and is a corruption of the phrase for “Devil Winds”. Besides appealing to the romantic notion of a California long gone, that explanation is certainly an apt description, especially when an unanticipated hurricane-velocity gust drives a size 10 wooly bugger between your shoulder blades– though I have been known to call them something else during those moments.
At any rate, urban fishing in SoCal during the Santa Anas is always an adventure – Sure, fickle breezes befoul every other cast and cause flies to drop into places not aimed for, but in the same way that the hot, irritating winds stir up the darker passions of Angelenos, they also seem to induce a frenzied, maddened bite in local Bass and Panfish populations.
Sean and I both experienced this during the last bout of “Devil Winds”, when we each had opportunities to sneak off for a couple of hours to different local lakes.
I had a scorching good time, taking a dozen five to six-inch bass on a yellow egg imitation rigged as a dropper off of a grasshopper fly – all in about an hour. Sean, likewise, smoked ‘em at the lake he hit, pulling in another dozen Bass and Panfish on a similar rig, though the lake he hit was paradoxically shrouded in coastal fog.
What made these little ventures exciting was the fury with which these relatively small fish hit our flies. These fish charged and fought and shook their heads just like the big boys. I even had one shake out the hook only to have another one hit it before the ripples of the first fish had died down.
When we compared notes, Sean told of similar ferocity amongst the fish he encountered.
Chalk it up to the season or the winds, either way, we both had a devilishly good time pursuing this addiction called urban fly fishing.
“Those hot dry winds that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happern. ”
My wife had to put in a little over time at work yesterday early in the morning, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to check out a few new Urban Park Lakes down by her work in Santa Ana. We dragged ourselves out of bed at 5:00, then I dropped her off at her office and I was on my way. I ended up scoping out two new parks that we will be adding to our Locations page shortly. I could not believe how much fog there was, I could barely see driving and the sun didn’t end up coming out until about 12:00. The fishing was good, and I ended up catching about 15 Bass. This Bass that I caught was one of the most beat up fish that I have ever seen.
The Panfish were also out, and the Bluegills were decent sized. All in all. it was a great morning of fishing and I can’t wait to get out and explore a few more of the Urban Park Lakes that I have on my list.
“Serendipity”. A ten dollar word that translates to roughly, ” I had no freakin’ idea that would turn out so totally awesome”. It’s a word to use when you want to throw a kink in the stereotype that brownliners are a step down on the flyfishing/intelligence hierarchy. It is also how I would d escribe our day on the water this past Sunday.
About 3:30 in the afternoon we headed off to La Mirada park to try our luck among the hard core catfish fisher-folk and the innumerable kids that were hurling enough lead at the lake to make it feel like a beach assault. We hop-scotched between the families feeding the predatory ducks, squeezing in just close enough so as not to appear too predatory ourselves but near enough to piggyback on the chum line being laid down by all the two and three year olds emptying their bags of cheetos into the lake. The wind was steady and made for a slight chop on the water, which was good for stealth but bad for anything other than casts made to the East. Our slow but fruitless dance around the lake was interrupted only to give a short lakeside instructional session to a ten-year old who nearly stove in the back of my head with the cannonball he was using for weight.
We had just about decided to move to another lake when my 8 foot, 5-weight “dinked”. I honestly thought I had snagged some algae but played in the line anyway. Sure enough, I had managed to hook up with quite possibly the smallest large mouth bass on the planet. Exhausted from the battle, I forgot to snap a photo but it wouldn’t have a mattered much anyway unless you use a hi-def,=2 0home-theater sized screen for a computer monitor. Still a fish is a fish and it boosted our spirits just to know that we could, in fact catch a fish in an urban lake even amid the barrage of live fire lead and rooster tails.
Knowing that retreat is an effective and honorable strategy, we opted to head over to Laguna Lake, which despite it’s name, is located in the middle of Fullerton — about fifteen minutes away. Now, old-timers who haven’t been there in the last three years or so will hear you say Laguna Lake and simply burst out laughing. Laguna lake recently underwent a multi-million dollar make over and it’s once again a decent place to fish. Prior to the fix up though, the place just stank. The water resembled hospital jello and you didn’t have to fish, you just had to walk along the shore and scoop up dead carcasses from underneath the ducks that lined the shore like day workers at Home Depot.
Now, it is a different story.The place is clean, the number of ducks is regulated, the water flows in a cleansing circular pattern thanks to a series of pumps and jets and there is plenty of space to make decent back casts around most of the lake. Plus you can park along the street for FREE. A good number of families were already set up along the shore mostly bait fishing. We headed over to a clump of rushes that had produced for us in the past and we begin fishin’. Almost immediately we began pulling in small bluegills. ; As we split off in different directions, we each continued to haul in bluegill after bluegill. At one point, my cell phone went off while I was playing a ‘gill and the ID indicated that Sean was calling me. I answered, thinking something was wrong. “Dude, switch to a small dry. You won’t be sorry.” I did and I wasn’t. All told, when it finally got too dark to see what we were doing, we counted close to a hundred bluegills and green sunfish caught and released between the two of us.
And that is what you call serendipity.
After Work today I decided to go over to Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley down the street from my house. The Park has two fishing lakes and the fish tend to bite a couple hours after sunrise and a couple hours before sunset. So I grabbed my 5 weight fly rod w/ 4 pound test leader and headed over to the smaller lake which seems to hold more fish. I tied on a black leech imitating size 8 cone head woolly bugger and walked around casting along the edges only a few feet out. Remember only take the fish if you are going to eat them, otherwise please practice catch and release and don’t litter!!! I caught a couple of small 1-2 pound bass and a 3 pound channel catfish. I’ve caught many different kinds of fish at this lake; bass, catfish(summer), trout(winter), carp, blue gill, crappie, what I think was a kind of goldfish, and one mean red ear slider turtle. So if your ever in the Fountain Valley area swing by and check it out, its on the intersection of Euclid and Warner.
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